Tuesday, December 29, 2009

492. Terra the BioGeek Found Her Self in Her Own Scientific Test Tube (or Beaker!) Cartoons Release!

Poem "Outside and Inside Her Test Tube: A Meditation on the Objective and Reflexive" can be found as a PDF file here: http://sites.google.com/site/stokastika2/outsideandinsidehertestube1.pdf.
Blurb Included in Picasaweb Album: Terra the BioGeek Found Her Self in Her Own Scientific Test Tube (or Beaker!) Ever since having a long conversation with Mike Davis (Ecology of Fear, City of Quartz) in the beginning of Fall 2009, my mind constructed a concept for this cartoon series, as a continuation of the Observer / Interactor Effects (Heisen Uncertainty / Gonzo Science Principles) theme. I finally was able to elaborate the concept at the end of the quarter, and I read the Objective/Reflexive poem to my poetry pal, Barry Spacks, over Christmas Break!

These cartoons will be essential by the time I need to create a powerpoint, demonstrating the "Behind the Scenes" for designing the novella, "The Mountain's Last Flower!"

491. Poem Back from 2005 "It is important to take a moment and consider" Written in a Crying, Bawling, Panic Attack State

Continued from Blog 490, here is a PDF of the above poem,
http://sites.google.com/site/stokastika2/itisimportantotakeamomentandconsiderPOEM1.pdf , written in a state of panic attack (crying, bawling, screaming, yelling) alone in my room.... It's a poem of "powerful words" but the "not now" censorship syndrome prevailed in the New York Publishing House climate back in 2005....

Sorry to repeat from Blog 490, but here's the blurb. The second most memorable response was a very contentious phone call with the editor from the UC Press. It was funny... I was exploring the website of the University of California Press and was noticing how they had this "non-discrimination statement," stating that the UC Press does not discriminate based on race, ethnic background, class, job position, AGE, or any other factor that could possibly construct the notion of discrimination. And yet, the phone call with the editor showed CLEAR DISCRIMINATION BASED ON AGE ("ageism" as opposed to "racism" or "speciesism" in District 9). He told me flat out (paraphrased, I have exact wording in another computer), "How could any 24-year old have something to say about the world?" which was extremely derogatory to me at the time. I left the phone call feeling like I was "no good" and didn't have anything valid to say because I was "too young." Following this phone call, I went through another panic attack alone, and I ended up writing a poem "It is important to take a moment and consider..." which I will place in the next blog, because I don't want to place too much information here....

I retyped up the poem, but I hardly changed a thing (except for some indentations). I find the poem to be a little overly melodramatic given my present state of mind.... The poem does crystallize my dire mental state back in that time.... Look at me, being a psychologist to my former self.... I probably won't submit this poem anywhere in particular unless it's a literary journal that emphasizes politics....

Blogging this today, it's funny think to in the American Climate of Mental Warfare, or American War of Ideas, I somehow have survived this first encounter with the gatekeepers of mass-produced storytelling.... I am an Intellectual Survivor... I live to tell the story... in a humble little blog.... I'm sure I am not going through post-traumatic-stress-disorder... or MAYBE I AM... that's why I'm compelled to write these blogs... resolving ancient stress, ancient knots... resolving my past traumatic encounters.... Writing is indeed psychological therapy....

It's funny that my life (and MANY other writer's lives) has become "dramatic" simply due to the traumas of interacting with publishers/literary agents. I had a close friend write a novella about how a suite of characters were so close to having "their big break" in getting their story out in Hollywood to be produced as a film, but the entry ended up as the runner-up. I really don't want to see my own stories becoming REFLEXIVE (authors writing stories about writing and publishing rather than writing stories about other worldly experiences) such as this, unless I take my experiences and transpose them to a science fiction story about censorship and the mechanisms of mental digestibility. How some alien society evolved (or denigrated, dis-evolved) from a state of imaginative dreamers to pacified consumers. Their minds started to resemble degenerate 2-year-olds.... Oh, I can easily, easily write a story about this topic....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

490. The Four-Year Lag Time Email to University of California UC Press::: Vic the Worm-Grub Idiot in 2005 and Attempting-to-Fly Butterfly in 2009

What I Wrote for the Picasaweb Blurb: Metamorphosis from 2005 to 2009 ::: The Four Year Lag Time Email to Uni California UC Press. As I am preparing to send off the "new organism" of "The Mountain's Last Flower" into the world, I was building up my internet social networking habits... and part of my personal goal was to clear up on email account www . questionreality . org @ gmail . com. And there I found an email from an editor of the University of California Press. My default instinct was to write an email stating (1) pardon the four year delay in responding to this email, but (2) I'm thankful for your patience, and yet I'm sorry if I was unprofessional and potentially inappropriate in behavior the first time I approached you as a naive undergraduate.... It was a powerful feeling to writing such an email, and then I started to think what was the "rational underbelly" behind the instincts.... What did I learn these past 4-5 years? What did I not know back then that I know now?!! (2005: worm-grub idiot to 2009: attempting-to-fly-butterfly)

The last 2-3 days (or longer... geez) I had become a Facebook Addict, Facebook Junky, Facebook Binge-er, Facebook Purger, Facebook Whatever... as I have been attempting to create a fresh account and delete an old account, affiliated with negative memories... and failures.... In addition, I made a deal with myself to crack into one of my "deadly" email accounts, wwdotquestionrealitydotorg atgmaildotcom, hunt through it, excavate all emails, and close the account.... In the process, I found an ancient email from an editor from the UC Press and instinctfully sent him a polite note generally stating... "Pardon for the four-year delay... but when I submitted my 1000-page Question Reality manuscript to you, I was an idiot. Sorry if I behaved unprofessionally and inappropriately, but also thanks for your patience and putting up with me."

It was an amazing feeling... of redemption of sorts?... to be able to open that ancient email in my life and address it. And yet an instinctful email response was followed by a surge of thoughts overwhelming my mind, when I cam to realize what an "unknowledgeable idiot" I was back in 2005, and how much I have come to learn and know since then about the media world....

To celebrate the passing of a little over four years and all the knowledge I have compoundingly acquired during this time, I decided to make a "generic list" (not a "life story," as to which it can easily become...) of all the things that I didn't know back in Fall of 2005, and all the things I know now... such that I can look back at my old worm-grubby self and even have enough confidence to label my 2005 self as an "idiot." It's funny how it all happened though. I never planned myself to be where I am at now. I'm just at a very fortunate state where right now it's "safe to reflect." Four long years of CONTINGENCY, contingent events, contingent learning processes to achieve a state of being "safe to reflect." As Dr. Nancy Kawalek told me one time... "You will only perceive, unless you are ready to perceive." And again, my father has always been an encouraging voice and describes Question Reality as a "necessary intellectual barf" to order to synthesize and compromise two polar-opposite, strangely, somewhat "mutually exclusive" worlds of "academic-"scientific"-book knowledge" and the "experiential knowledge acquired" of surviving anorexia (As they say, the university is the "frontier of knowledge," it seems like scholars in the university are the "last ones to find out.").

(1). No one in their right mind publishes books of 1000 pages, unless you are a Stephen Jay Gould at the end of your life... and you are the Biblical Figure of your respectable discipline, including Harry Potter pseudo-disciplines.... Basically, I went backwards... as my mentor Hugh Marsh told me... Hugh stated that most people write a series of newspaper articles, and then these articles conglomerate into books.... It's how most journalists earn their "book" merits....

(2). Society does not judge you based on (a) your hard work (b) your intellectual merit (c) your impeccable track record of straight-A-goodie-two-shoes in school (d) but based on your intimate contacts, inherited or acquired (e) your popularity, your "platform," your already-built-in audience through marketing, self[deprecating] promotion, exposure (f) economic affordability (g) degree of coupling with other forms of media campaigning. So the quality of most books in Borders and Barnes and Noble is close to shxt. It's not about quality literature, it's about the popularity media bombardment (mostly). (Believe me, I remember one day I had that epiphany, and I walked into Borders in complete disgust... my entire perception of Borders and Barnes and Noble completely shifted....). I came to realize how many people's beautiful voices, how many geniuses' thoughts must have been buried in history simply because the one's who survived and became famous... were not necessarily the best, but won the popularity contest. (I have a dream of writing a newspaper column discussing the "Unburying the Undiscovered," in which I was to go into deep history of the region and find all the people who had the potential to impact society with their influential thoughts and stories, but ended up being drowned by the winners of the popularity contest, ended up being buried in history. Like the whole Herman Melville Syndrome, giving a second chance for select individuals to be rediscovered... unfortunately... long after they're gone....

(3). Society DOES NOT READ. A long time ago, there used to be books. People used to have time and energy invested in reading books because there was not much else for distraction. People used to read words and imagine worlds and generate emotions within them. Readers used to be ACTIVE dreamers. But then lots of technologies had arisen such that words could now be coupled with images and music, visions and emotions, such that there was not much incentive anymore to be active dreamers, but more so PASSIVE MENTAL CONSUMERS. And we learned fairly quickly that the human mind prefers IMAGES and AUDIO over sitting down and reading static, symbolic code on page after page after page. And to make it worse, the modern environment of "media bombardment" has placed people in a state of MINIMAL ATTENTION SPAN, MAXIMUM ADHD, so the capability for an audience member to retain a linear train of thought in consuming a piece of media is becoming closer and closer to zilch.... And so... welcome TWITTER to make life even worse.... So now, specialize-then-diversify strategy comes in full blast (the Ian Shive Conservation Photogapher strategy). In order for people to become interested in your central product, in this case a novella, you have to LURE THEM INTO reading your product through SOUNDBITES and IMAGEBITES.... You gotta HOOK THEM and then RETAIN their attention span.... Hence, the TRIANGLE EFFECT in writing, the most pertinent and sensationalized items presented first, and then tapered off to the juicy, but less "sexy" material hidden in the boonies of whatever product. Hence also leading to the FOUR ELEMENTS of ESSENTIAL STORYTELLING (1) What is this about? (2) Why should I care? (3) Why should I believe you? are three questions that need to be answered in the first 15 seconds of meeting any important person in the world who may be able to more widely distribute your product.... and (4) What kind of tricks will you infilitrate in your craft of storytelling that will maintain my interest?! (Also consider the PRISM EFFECT; the ability to speak with multiple different parties/stakeholders, e.g. how to approach literary agents and editors as opposed to how to approach journalists / magazine writers or students or more specialized academics) (The concept of telling stories in MENTALLY DIGESTIBLE CHUNKS, for example, in a short, adventurous story like "The Mountain's Last Flower") (The concept of STORYTELLING IN LIGHT OF MULTI-MEDIA TECHNIQUES, writing stories such that it is EASILY ADAPTABLE to other forms of stories, e.g. art exhibit, music, stage play, film, interactive website... whatever....)

And on that note... given these fundamental philosophical transformations... I engaged in a series of educational and artistic pursuits in order to convert my mind from the "academic treadmill" to the "economically viable treadmill" which I do not support. I do not support mass production. Period. Mass production and growth in quantity is by default non-sustaining. Period. I don't need numbers to show this (except for mass producing proton-electron arrays on a computer screen doesn't really seem to do the world much harm...).

Certain things in the global realm that didn't happen: (1) Bush was voted out of office and Obama's now in [I didn't realize that Bush's power constructed a heavy, oppressive weight in my mind and on my shoulders, which lifted the day Obama was in (2) Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth broke the silence of "international discussion" of climate change/environmental problems. (3) Question Reality was ready to go out into the world in 2005, but I even had editors even tell me "Your writing is beautiful and powerful, but not now." But, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "NOT NOW"? What the hxll?!! The political climate under Bush really SUCKED, and drastically impacted the strategies of publishers (4) Several internet-based companies evolved from "esoteric code" to user-friendly push-button publishing (totally my style, WYSIWYG); there was an artms race in quality of internet services, like blogging and social networking, in which in my mind, Blogger and Wordpress and Typepad won for the blogosphere, and Facebook won by a long-shot in social networking (myspace has become insultingly cluttery). It's funny. All these people have jobs "teaching people" about "the media" when the "media environment" has been drastically changing during the time in which I have tried to establish myself as a multi-media storyteller. As a teacher, you have no stake. You're just observing and telling stories, and get paid to do it. You're not a struggling, unpaid "player" trying to survive in this dynamically changing media environment. Hopefully, one day I will succeed as a player and live to tell a story, once this "media environment" has stabilized.... As Jules said, "Dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't evolve fast enough to the environmental changes." The shifts in the internet and human media interface has been so drastic the last few years, that I feel if I fast-forwarded my life, I could say that I've been going through a "meteor impact of cyber space," much equivalent to the KT mass extinction. Fine, fine... I am metaphorically exaggerating. Whatever. That's what geologic metaphors are for. SCALE! (If your product doesn't seem to have the capacity to be contagious and "scale out" then people won't join the bandwagon. Agents and publishers only "join your team" because they see your product in "scale" and they want the piece of YOUR PIE, but then again, many folks can't scale out so well if they don't have help...).

Visceral things I didn't know about: male Homo sapiens (beyond my father, who I have discovered to be the exception to all the rules), their positive, sensitive inner universe as well as their extremely negative, bridge-burning undersides, I also didn't understand much about death (as I had most profoundly experienced through my grandfather Ray and grandmother Marion)

Elements of Substance / Philosophies I didn't know about: geology (paleontology, paleoecology, sedimentology, my pet pea subjects), the nuances of creative writing a la Barry Spacks :-) (understanding storytelling structures such as poetry, song lyrics, flash fiction, short story, novella, novel, etcetera), Matrix of the Mind: Mapping Language on Landscapes (the feedback between language, images, and emotions), I didn't know that my writing could be classified as "literary fiction [faction] for social change" (finally, a discrete and bounded discipline for the publishing types!), I didn't have people with authority and legitimacy around me (like my new Ph.D. committee, sitting in Mike Davis' class)....

Practical / Artistic / Social Networking Tools I didn't know about: I didn't know how to use Photoshop, I didn't own a Nikon D80 SLR until April 2006 (got my first photography gigs via cousin Mike Dillin!), I didn't know how to blog, I didn't know how to facebook, I didn't know how to design-organize-self-publish a book, like through LULU or CREATESPACE, I had no confidence in singing, I didn't know how to record-mix-master music, I didn't know how to record and edit video (thanks to UCSB's Blue Horizons program), I didn't know about the art of public presentation (thanks Toastmasters!), I didn't know much about experimental stage play (STAGE via Dr. Nancy Kawalek), I didn't know much about acting/modeling (which I learned via Barbizon/IMTA), nor was I ever exposed to wasteful mass production film operations (via Mike Dillin, Central Casting), I didn't know about the operations of a music studio (volunteering at California Sound Studios)

After all things said, I can find "some level of truce" with my first traumatic wave, simply by recognizing my own state of idiocracy, but not necessarily with the way how certain people treated me and responded to me (let's call it "collective abuse," shall we?). For example, to experience the sensation of "censorship," in which a literary agent and editor stated flat out "your writing is beautiful, but not now!" is one of the most traumatizing experiences I ever had in my entire life. Around that time, I recorded myself going through a panic attack in the car. At a visceral level, I could not stand the notion of being "mentally trapped" by the conventions/standards of a national society, and at a conscious level, I understood that my visceral/primal brain was going through a panic attack, and that I should record it. It's buried somewhere in my computer; when the time is right, I will revisit this attack (as a summary statement for most of my panic attacks). Traumatizing times provide the best material for storytelling....

The second most memorable response was a very contentious phone call with the editor from the UC Press. It was funny... I was exploring the website of the University of California Press and was noticing how they had this "non-discrimination statement," stating that the UC Press does not discriminate based on race, ethnic background, class, job position, AGE, or any other factor that could possibly construct the notion of discrimination. And yet, the phone call with the editor showed CLEAR DISCRIMINATION BASED ON AGE ("ageism" as opposed to "racism" or "speciesism" in District 9). He told me flat out (paraphrased, I have exact wording in another computer), "How could any 24-year old have something to say about the world?" which was extremely derogatory to me at the time. I left the phone call feeling like I was "no good" and didn't have anything valid to say because I was "too young." Following this phone call, I went through another panic attack alone, and I ended up writing a poem "It is important to take a moment and consider..." which I will place in the next blog, because I don't want to place too much information here....

Despite these discriminating statements made over the phone, I am going to have to let them slide, let them drip off my shoulder as if I were a random victim of being hit by bird dung. First of all, I have to let them slide because back then, I didn't know a lot, and I was a young idiot (yet with a lot to say) in several respects. And secondly, the editor did review the manuscript and made sincere, polite, helpful comments. Emotional and contentious phone calls should not be the basis for rational decision-making....

So, this "generic list" of all the things I didn't know back in 2005, but I do know now in 2009, is becoming a little bit of a "life story," so I'll catch myself and cut myself off here....

489. Graphic Design / Logos for Biologically Incorrect PR http://www.biologicallyincorrect.com

Wow, wow, WOW! You know what?!! This is very, very big news. I am just starting a new website entitled Biologically Incorrect PR at
http://www.biologicallyincorrect.com. I was meditating over the quarter on how I needed two different websites, one website devoted to Quantity, which is this blog http://www.biologicallyincorrect.org. It's awesome for staying up-to-date, but many jewels and gems of my work can be quickly buried and difficult to find. So now, it's all about establishing a website that features The Best of the Best.... the Quality of La Victoria Salsa or Vickle the Pickle or Vic or Stokastika or whatever.... And that is what it is... http://www.biologicallyincorrect.com! And FINALLY, during Christmas Break, I have FREE TIME, and I am able to pursue my dreams with *somewhat* minimal interruption.... Well yes, my family has been pretty big time-suckers the last few days... but that is legitimate. My aunt and cousin asked me yesterday, "When do you go back to school?" And I answered non-chalantly, "It doesn't matter. I get more work done during Christmas Break than during the quarter." And my cousin commented, "Gee, that's sad." WELL, IT'S TRUE! As I told Dr. Freudenberg the first time I entered his office, "THE QUARTER SYSTEM IS ONE LONG DISTRACTION FROM TRAIN OF THOUGHT!" True, true, true.... So here I am, during Christmas Break, working my xss off... oh, but it's fun!

I started working on the logos about a week ago, up in Santa Barbara. I had been recuperating from a week-long adrenaline rush in order to write a STAGE script for UCSB's STAGE competition. I was skipping a lot of steps, and so I had to back-track and figure out where I was.... Like the basics... NEW WEBSITE!

Below is the blurb I wrote alongside the Stokastika Picasaweb Album above:
The more I realized that no one in the world was going to lift a finger for me, the more I decided to lift a finger for myself. Over the course of Fall Quarter 2009, I came to realize that "The Mountain's Last Flower" (novella) was the first time I was "doing something right," in concern of expressing my inner universe and acquiring compatibility within the outer universe, the outer universe being more specifically the venues of media, ranging from book publishing to film production to the *gxd forbid* self deprecating promotion of public relations. Hence PR stands for (1) press (2) productions (3) public relations (my father added "press release" to the list). You truly have to be a multi-media-package-deal storyteller in order to survive... and this is my first attempt to performing this experiment "right." And "right things" of "great quality over quantity" deserve brand-spanking new websites, such as http://www.biologicallyincorrect.com (quality) over http://www.biologicallyincorrect.org (quantity, daily-weekly blogging).

Designs for Biologically Incorrect PR. Bird in a Cage. Vic's graphic design style has settled to: (1) median (2) daub (3) liquify (4) doubling (5) invert (6) gaussian blur (7) posterize/poster edges (with my thin-point sharpie). It's relieving to know that my "style" and "techniques" are stabilizing and becoming quite consistent... in a non-boring way.... Crafting the designs must have taken about a day... with some additional modifications... the "R" in "PR" was a little bit thick in some of the designs, so I had to modify a slough of images contingent upon that "R." I have come to realize that doing art is MEDITATIVE by default... my brain has be clear of clutter, clear of words, clear of stress and deadlines in order to go into MEDITATIVE TRANCE MODE. Doing art is SOOO easy for my brain.... Whereas writing does take some major brainpower (though ironically, one word is a couple of kilobites in a word doc and one image is a few megabites... strange....) I can work on a film for 3 days straight with 6 hours of sleep totall, but if I write for 6 hours straight, I by DEFAULT need 8 hours of sleep... strange....

It may seem that I am being "redundant," but I strongly feel that the "Squirrel Tries to Get Bird Out of the Cage" is THEEE theme of my life, so transferring the image to Biologically Incorrect PR is a no brainer. I have a few other images that I feel strongly represent who I am, but can be misinterpreted as extremely "enviro" and "new agey" and honestly I don't want to be affiliated with those stereotypes.... At the end of the day, I want to be known as a great storyteller and a die-hard thinker. That-is-all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

101. Vic's Quirky Response to the "White Elephant Christmas Game" / Christmas 2008 / Christmas 2009

This Christmas (a la Mama)... Next Halloween.... Vic the Confused Deranged Transgender Granny Pirate Coffee Addict! In Color!
This Christmas (a la Mama)... Next Halloween.... Vic the Confused Deranged Transgender Granny Pirate Coffee Addict! In Black and White!

When the family came together in Christmas of 2007, Jennifer had an idea to play a guessing game so that we could get to know each other better. We had to answer four questions, and slowly but surely, people had to guess who was the person who answered the questions. I think it came out that (1) I gave people the most bizarre presents, and (2) I had the most bizarre responses. So I'll share my self-absurdity.

(1). Favorite holiday carol/song: WWJB, What Would Jesus Buy? (It's a documentary, not sure if it's a song. It should be. Mama thought I made that up, and she demanded that I sing it on the spot, which I didn't)

(2). Favorite holiday tradition: Sleeping. (Most people answered: spending time with family and eating good food. Jery Lyn guessed me right away)

(3). Favorite food: Homemade pie and homemade strawberry ice scream. (This was my boring response, but nevertheless true. Jim and Melanie and Alicia spoil us with homemade ice scream and pie)

(4). Strangest holiday present ever received: Toilet paper. (Mama saw the question and she yelped at me: "Ohhh! I know what YOU'RE going to write! Oh no!" And I exclaimed, "I'm going to have to bring this issue out in the open from under the table!" We both laughed until our faces went red)

I made the top list for giving people the strangest presents. I gave Mama a sweeper and dust pan. She got mad and didn't want it. She wanted me to return it, but Jenny decided to take it to Northridge. Whew. It was 99 cents anyway. She asked me, "What were you thinking? Are you going to give me a trash can like Baba too?" I think this family is a little bit too practical for its own good.

Jennifer put me on the top for weirdest present. I believe I gave her frog-shaped soap. That was a long time ago. Oh well. Bub said "none" for favorite holiday song. That almost beats "What Would Jesus Buy." Bub's weirdest present was a "plastic roll," but unfortunately I did not give it to him. If you do not know, my father lives off of bread. It's his addiction. Better than cigarettes and pot, I guess. The strangest present my grandfather Ray ever received was a Venus Fly Trap, and that, of course, was from me--just this Christmas. This is a special honor for me, simply because Ray is 94 or 95 years old! Surely he must have received a stranger present than a Venus Fly Trap! Jenny's favorite holiday tradition is "Saying Thanks at Thanksgiving," a bit redundant, but I also topped her list of weirdest presents--just this year--"oozing animal-shaped sticky window figurines." Pretty elaborate and scientific! One was an orange deformed frog. One was a rat. And another was a starfish.

I think the "recent memory effect" has taken effect in people's decisions for weirdest presents, and I guess it's all toward my favor in the recent emergence of my weirdness (it was more suppressed before). It is the same effect that occurs when people decide who should receive an academy award. I think we should account for this phenomenon, and make the decision-making process more objective.

I think we were all sad that Colleen didn't come. She had been cut off from the family since moving out from Uncle Dwight. She called once when the fires were occurring near Corona. I just hope she's okay.

Jennifer must have known who was who just based on the hand-writing of the people. Jennifer was announcing the answers to everyone... all for us to go wild guessing.

What can I say? I am so thankful for all my family for keeping me calibrated and in check. And I am thankful they welcome the development of my humor. Being comical is a necessity, otherwise life gets to be pretty boring if you rely on others for humor. I apply the "expect the worst, and hope for the best" tactic when it comes to comedy. Sometimes other people really crack me up!

Christmas 2009
All right, all right, now it's December of 2009... about a year since last Christmas.... What have I been doing differently? Well, before I did the Christmas Eve present splurge... I was on this meditative train of thought of adding everyone I could think of on Facebook. I promised myself last September to finally start using Facebook and adding all my past friends and acquaintances, and acknowledge their existence and influence in my life, whether subtley or profoundly.... I got to the point in which I finished writing a blog on the NASA Sherettes Conference, and I was about to add Dr. Caron to Facebook when I realized it was PAST NOON, and that it was CHRISTMAS EVE and that I better just get my act together. I had been meditating on what to purchase people this year. The last couple of years have ventured into the domain of "absurd silliness" and "Saturday Night Live Material." My strategy was "quantity" over "quality," especially since I was strolling through the isles of the 99 cents store. I have established the familial claim to fame for purchasing my grandfather of 96 years the most memorable present of a "venus fly trap" and in certain ways, I'm trying to maintain my new status of Holiday Sharing. But this year, I decided to resort to "thoughtfulness" and "quality over quantity." I meditated long and hard on what to purchase for each close family member: (1) my father: a very, very nice fancy +20 oz Starbucks metallic coffee mug, so that he will NEVER have to use a paper cup at Starbucks ever again (though I'm still guilty) (2) my mother: Trader Joes Baklava (she requested it), and I was thinking of getting her a cook book, but I abandoned any cookbook ideas all together; also a $5 gift certificate to the Dollar Tree Store (3) Jen Jen, my sister: an autographed book by Dr. Barbara Kingsolver "The Poisonwood Bible" (a couple of years ago Jenny got me a Daftpunk Homework CD for Christmas, and it was one of the coolest presents I had received the last ten years, so I wanted to reciprocate in the same way). I also made a few Dollar Tree Store Nick Nack presents, but overall I calmed down my own Saturday Night Live Prankster Gift Habits (though I guess American Consumerist Lifestyle is overall insane; it doesn't really even matter). I wanted to also buy everyone in the family some cloth-based, portable grocery store baggies from Whole Foods, but I never made it to the store because I anticipated horrible traffic on Christmas Eve. On the evening before Christmas, I felt overall tired and was not in the mood of purchasing and wrapping, so my sister Jenny helped me out, took me out to the Dollar Tree Store in her new Green Toyota Limo (she's getting higher up in the ranks than I am; she's about to have a nice job in a few months... my parents only have to worry about me :-), and she let me borrow her wrapping paper for wrapping. I was still lazy and didn't label any of the presents. It was a little bit of guess work in terms of whether people received the right presents. My mother noticed how tired I was and said, "Awww, you don't have to wrap the presents!" And I exclaimed, "No! I have to! Last year I wrapped everything in grocery store plastic bags and Jenny was pissed off!" So... I have learned and adjusted my behavior.... (Oh ya, I did get my father a funny present, a Luna Bar, or an energy bar for women... ha ha... for my daddy's feminine side... I didn't even realize it was a bar for women, who would know the difference?)

So, that was my game plan. It was Christmas Eve, 9pm, and everything was all set for the next day. I wanted to go out and work at a coffeeshop but everything was closed. I was cold and just slept on the living room floor wrapped in blankets by the tree. I didn't hear Santa Claus that night, just my dad waking up 3am in the morning to go to the pot. Right before I went to sleep, I talked with my father. I was trying to figure out the HISTORY of this ASBURD GIFT EXCHANGE, especially between ME and MY MOTHER. Well, last year was getting really crazy. And then I purchased a bowl that was shaped as a half-broken chicken egg shell with two chicken feet sticking out. My mother frowned, my father laughed, and my mom asked if my dad could donate this piece of existentialist Goodwill art to his work.... I kept tracing back and back and back... and then I realized that the Whacko Funky Gift Exchange Operation started back in November of 2003, when I was at UCLA, frazzled as can be as a first-year graduate student, and for some reason, our apartment was out of toilet paper for a week and I was so crunched with time I forgot to purchase toilet paper at the grocery store. Oopsy. My mother emphasized this random drama of "toilet paper absence" by wrapping up a packet of four-ply toilet paper and giving it to me for Christmas. I whined when I opened it up, "Ma-maaaa!!!" And SHE calls me the Greek "skatoula" [little shxt!] huh! So much for that... the terms of endearment shoot right back at her!

After that Christmas present, my mother and I subliminally formulated a Christmas/Birthday present FaceOff Competition of who could get the most absurd, silly, and most useless present during whatever holiday occassion. But it's December 2009 and I was about ready to taper off in my efforts... except for my mother... she decided to vamp up her efforts.

On the morning of December 25, 2009, my mother tossed me a soft-feeling present. I opened it up, only to find a green kitchen pirate hat with white pokadots. My mom busted laughing. My father and sister started to cringe. The next present: a white-yarn oversized painter's beanie hat. My mom laughed again. I took off the pokadot hat in order to place the white painter's hat underneath, and the pokadot hat was on the top. And then an undersized light brown and blue vest. Wow, this was getting good. My mother was having way too much fun. Then my sister opened a couple of white elephant presents: a neon pink hippi purse, which she grimaced and I exclaimed, "I want it! I want it!" which she threw across the room to me. And to top it off, a weird cloth light brown belt with strange crochet patterns on it. I forgot the colors. Reminded me of Arizonian and New Mexico designs. My sister frowned. My mom moped, "Well, I thought you needed a belt." Jenny whined again, "Mama! I'm not going to wear it!" And of course I perked up, "I want it! I want it!" And hence, my wardrobe for next Halloween was completed (maybe some pants or shorts to top it off). Jenny stared at me and playfully, "Victoria! Take it off! Take it all off! You look like a confused transgender granny pirate!" Wow! My new identity! Well, the identity became more elaborate when Jenny gave me a $10 Starbucks gift certificate. My official title for Next Halloween is "Confused Deranged Transgender Granny Pirate Coffee Addict!" CDTGPCA. At one point my sister retrieved a present for my father from her car, and my dad was like, "I hope it's a screen... so I can stop looking at Victoria!" Aya!

Though I wasn't all that competitive in the annual Silly Useless Gift Exchange Game... I am so happy my mother still played... and she came back stronger than ever! A fisherman said, it's all about making memories, in the end, that's all you have left. Memories. And that indeed was what my mother did. Sometimes I feel like my family has humorous enough moments to be on Saturday Night Live. Christmas Time the last five years have made it in my mind....

My mother also had a "flashlight fetish." She gave everyone a bunch of 99-cent weirdly shaped lights.... I found out that it was because of some family struggles in Greece with a cousin of mine who is literally going insane and being threatening in a way that is criminal... which is obviously affecting the whole family. My mom perceives "lights" as some form of "clairvoyance" in a time of familial turbulence... so she dumped all these lights on us, which is fine, because I have a fetish for plasma and lava lamps... so she's adding to my collection. I stopped paying full price for lava lamps. They end up being popular, cheap yard sale items. The first thing that goes when everyone moves....

Noon. Marquis arrives. That was fun. Drive in Green Limo to Corona. Say hi to everyone. Chuck. Jean. Jennifer. Colleen (back from Harvard!). Uncle Dwight ($10 gift certificate TJs!). Jeri Lyn. Steve. Mumsy. Bubsy. Jen Jen. Marquis. Me. Great Catching Up! White Elephant Toss Game was a bit of a dud. No one was interested in trading or stealing this year. I think everyone has gotten too good at this game. Jennifer gave me to-do-list tattoos because I write all over my hands. Ha ha. Received a tool kit and a cool "Mudd" purse with a huge number of pockets. Jeri Lyn didn't want! Wa?! Oh well. Lots of great food. Turkey. Potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Beans. Veggie chips. Guacamole and Tortilla Chips. Cookies. Pumpkin bread. Caramel pop corn. A suite of other evil little goodies that will compell me to jogging a bazillion miles to who knows where. Good thing I didn't eat anything the night before! Came back after a ride to Riverside. Played Buzz game. The host was abnoxious. I apparently am an idiot and don't know anything useful, like the names of musicians and famous athletes. I played a WWII Wii game and crashed an airplane in the ocean. Cool! Fell asleep with the doggies. I was so happy to see Jeri Lyn and Steve and Katie from up North! Steve showed me how to use Garageband.... He's motivating me to get on to purchasing Logic Pro or Logic Lite... get over the hump.... and become musically competent! Garageband has some built in tools like PITCH CORRECTION! ARPEGGIATOR! Autotunes equivalent! That is GOOD TO KNOW!!!

Another memorable Christmas goes by! I love our new family gig. Merging Christmas with Ray Minnich's side of the family and Dwight Minnich's side of the family. The hub of the free-thinking scientists and artists. I wish we started doing this a lot earlier, but now... I'm glad we're doing it now! Better now than never!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

488. Unexpected Responses from Review on "No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet..." By Colin Beavan

Back in November of 2009, I was browsing the internet into the weee hours of the night and encountered the "No Impact Man" website, which had this epic format of coupling film with book with blog, which is an optimal platform for myself one day....

But as I was doing further research on the No Impact project, the more and more I became very upset on how limited the reasoning was behind the writing... how this seemed to highlight "trendy environmentalism" rather than more deep-rooted thinking.... I became so upset that I managed to have enough courage to write a review of the book on Amazon, which can be found here:
Amazon Review by Victoria Minnich for No Impact Man. I will copy and paste the review below. The two main points I raised were (1) "No Impact" is impossible as an organism, so it's a faulty premise, a faulty goal and (2) "No Isabella" or the human population problem / birth control problem is not really addressed whatsoever in the book. People responded to the review and my reviewer rating went up about a million! Woohoo!!! (ha ha ha) Sometimes writing reviews in a state of upsetedness into the wee hours of the night can lead to good things....

What about the source of all environmental problems? The mind? The kid?

As a "skimmer" of No Impact Man, I have issues about the fundamental muscular/skeletal structure of the entire book itself. I am greatly concerned about the lack of mentioning of the "ultimate source" of environmental problems: too many humans. Having kids. Population. It is the HUMAN MIND that generates the notion of "problems" in the first place, and the fewer humans, the less problems in the world. I am surprised that family planning agencies have not associated their campaigns with environmental problems. For the birth of every child in this world equates to the death of thousands of millions of plants and animals, the excavations of how many tons of rocks and minerals... the sculpting of so many parcels of landscapes... all occurring in a very indirect manner to the life of that child.

The fundamental human-environmental paradox assumes this: as long as you exist, occupy space and time, consume resources, excrete wastes, and especially replicate yourself, you by default as a human, a living organism, are impacting the environment (I invented this paradox on my Biologically Incorrect Blog). The concept of "zero impact" is a farse. The question is how can this level of impact be minimized, or at most be "perceivably beneficial" at an individual and collective scale, such that the individual does not sacrifice his/her own health and survival (aka become an "environmental Jesus Christ") and the collective network of human society won't fall apart all together?

I don't see this book being addressed at a more systematic level with a fundamentally strong premise such as the statement above. It seems to be more at a "trendy" level--such as alternative transportation and going to farmers' markets and using recycled grocery bags. At least it's a start.

As for my own personal values, I choose to not have an Isabella (having kids is sooo cliche) and will take the right to using toilet paper. And if there's no more TP, I've used sticks and leaves before, and they seem to work fine. I also choose to catch my own fish and tend to my own garden. No problem.

I don't think birth control and family planning should be the invisible 800-pound gorilla in the room anymore.

Monday, December 07, 2009

487. Poem / Song ... Why Do I Have to Go Through the Past Just to Get to the Future?

Why do I
have to go
through the past
just to get
to the future?
to the feature?

Why do I
have to ex-
tract the good
from the bad
just to endure--
just to procure--

a seed a little softer
than the one before?

a fruit a little sweeter
than the one before?

a mind a little wiser
than the one before?

a world a little better
than the one before?


This poem/song has come to me "Why Do I Have to Go Through the Past Just to Get to the Future?" quite frequently just the last few days because the first two months of Fall Quarter 2009 were psychologically warping stress-cases of a bunch of abandoned, unfinished projects... the mere act of foraging for a Ph.D. committee and being introduced to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process in a broader context, and then after feeling stuck and going in circles spiraling to nowhere in particular, I realized I needed to REVERSE THE CLOCK, FULL SPEED go back and finish what I started at the beginning of the quarter... which is the dealing with The Mountain's Last Flower. But not as a writer in the system, but more so wearing the hat as a book designer, a manuscript submitter, and an overall business chick, self-deprecating-self-promoter. Because that's what society has forced me to become. Stupid gxd-dxmn self-promoter bullshxt. I hate it, but you gotta suck it up, girl. Be a big girl, eh?

This poem/song has somewhat deep origins in my head... back to about a year ago (actually late February of 2009... oh how invigorating, always to remember him, see him with fresh eyes...), when I first met Jules... in his San Diego context. I remember driving down from Santa Barbara all the way to San Diego, and I remembered all the elements of the landscape I had some form of fragmented experience / attachment to... but they all seemed like my own personal failures... more notably my experience with Gxd Forbid Barbizon and International Model and Talent Association (IMTA), and then my volunteering with California Sound Studios in Orange County... which I have lost touch at this point... all this baggage I guess you could say, I still had strong mental ties to... and I thought of all these memories as I was making my first epic trek to the Black Box of San Diego, not knowing what to expect.... And during this ride, I invented a Black Box song (which the recording is buried somewhere in my computer) and then I invented this song "Why do I have to go through the past just to get to the future?" which embodies the notion that INTERNAL MENTAL EVOLUTION IS REQUIRED IN ORDER TO SEE A NEW EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT AND TO ALTER YOUR EXISTING BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS. Which is kind of the jist of what I'm doing right now....

Little did I know that months and months later... Jules has become a staple being in my life.... He has definitely helped me "go through the past" to "get to the future." Because I know I'm not going down my own rabbithole... alone.

Friday, December 04, 2009

486. A Very Random Slam Poem... Poetry and Parasitology... Do Not Ask...

Poetry and
iza Wild West
of Literature
and Biology.
And so I've come
to practice both.
For th' opportune
to self-impose
the Wildness
and Westness
into my Prose!

This poem was invented about ten minutes ago by my accidentally talking to myself. Ooops! This is what happens when a biologist starts creative writing: the invention of very strange, esoteric... associations. Well, at least it rhymes!

This poem is the merging of two separate incidents. When speaking with poetry pal Barry Spacks, I had once told him that to me, poetry is like the Wild West of literature. And then when I was blathering away with my fisherman friend Jules who has had several encounters with ocean parasites (and I told him about the bizarre life cycle of rhizocephalan barnacles hosted in spider crab), this comment just slipped off my tongue: "Parasitology is the Wild West of Biology. Once you thought there were some rules and some structure to the discipline, all of the rules seem to be broken or severely modified when you start studying parasites."

And so my silly brain gave birth to a poem associating Poetry and Parasitology. Voila!

I was just crafting a "justification" statement/essay for The Mountain's Last Flower, and I was trying to craft a fundamental method for my prose. Basically, I feel that the craft of writing poetry has tremendously freed up my mind from any arbitrary literary constraints, just as parasites did for the biological side of my brain (which is close to all of it), and then I think venturing into prose from a poetic, yet scientifically precise point of view constructs the notion of "poetic precision" and "layered, nonlinear minimalism" in my writing, which have been very touching compliments from quite a few people over the last few years. Scientists doing creative writing may produce a lot of useless byproduct (like the poem above), but at least they can breed new habits into the stale conventions of modern journalistic-like creative writing.

Guinea pig Victoria is, indeed!